Neverwinter Nights II

Neverwinter Nights II

Bran Farlong was raised by his foster-father Daeghun in the remote village of West Harbor, deep in the Mere of Dead Men. Bran was a member of the local militia, well-liked and respected by the whole community. When West Harbor came under attack by githyanki raiders and their minions, Daeghun sent him into the swamp to recover an object he’d hidden there long ago. It was a shard of metal that glowed when Bran picked it up — which was strange, since it had been dormant when Daeghun hid it away. He sent his foster-son to his half-brother Duncan, proprietor of the Sunken Flagon, to learn the truth about this artifact that the githyanki sought. Along the way, Bran gained some companions and heard whispers of a “King of Shadows” gaining power in the Mere. He heard scattered stories about a war fought against him nearly twenty years before, when he was just a baby. No one seemed to know the truth about the war, only that involved a powerful warlock and armies of demons, and that it ended after a climactic battle at his own village of West Harbor.

In Neverwinter, a fellow son of West Harbor named Cormick convinced Bran to join the City Watch. Helping to clean up the Docks, Bran won enough influence in the city to enter the barricaded Blacklake District to consult a sage named Aldanon, who identified the shard as part of a githyanki silver sword. Such swords are given to githyanki knights by their Lich Queen. If one were lost, elite squadrons would be dispatched to recover it at any cost and kill any who touched it, much less destroyed it. Aldanon recalled a sage named Ammon Jerro who was once rumored to possess a silver sword. Bran could find little in Neverwinter’s archives about Ammon Jerro, but he did find a descendant named Shandra with a farm outside of Highcliff. Bran arrived there in time to rescue her from the githyanki intent on seizing her to find Ammon’s Haven. Their second attempt to capture her by abducting her from the Sunken Flagon was successful. Duncan pressed a tracker named Bishop to help Bran locate the githyanki base. There, Bran learned why the shards had reacted to him as they had. He had been there at West Harbor, a baby, when the final battle against the King of Shadows had been fought. The silver sword shattered, and one of the shards cut through his mother, killing her, and lodged itself in his chest. They had thought he would die, but instead the grievous wound healed, leaving the silver shard lodged against his heart. The shards responded to him because he was one of them — a living weapon, bound to the sword. Zeearie, the leader of the githyanki expedition, intended to rip the shard out of him, killing him. Instead, Bran defeated her, forcing the githyanki to give up their quest.

When Bran returned to Neverwinter, he learned of the massacre of a small village called Ember. The Luskan ambassador accused Bran of the crime, insisting that he be put on trial. Lord Nasher Alagondar knighted Bran so that his trial would be subject to high justice in Neverwinter, rather than handing him over to be summarily executed in Luskan. The investigation to clear his name revealed the involvement of a wizard named Garius. Exonerated by the trial, Bran tracked Garius to the ruins of an old castle called Crossroad Keep, where Bran stopped some heinous ritual he had begun. Lord Nasher rewarded Bran by granting him the ruin and naming him Knight-Captain.

Bran concentrated on rebuilding the keep and the lands around, bringing peace and prosperity, until a githzerai named Zhjaeve sought him out and explained to him that the King of Shadows had once been the Guardian, a magical construct formed by the wizards of the ancient elven empire of Illefarn, intended to protect them against their encroaching enemies, the arcanists of Netheril chief among them. When Netheril fell, the same disruption that caused the enclaves to fall out of the sky forced the Guardian to seek some alternate source of power, and in that moment, desperate to continue his mission, the Guardian tapped into the Shadow Weave. His shadowy essence now began to drain the life from Illefarn, so they sought a means of undoing their Guardian. The Guardian, however, concluded that since he protected Illefarn, anyone who attacked him must mean to harm Illefarn, even if they appeared to be the people of Illefarn themselves. They managed to wall the Guardian — now the King of Shadows — away in the Astral Sea.

Zhjaeve guided Bran to the ruins of Arvahn to undergo the Rituals of Purification, bound to the very same rituals that created the Guardian, which would be the key to destroying him. As he went through the rituals, Bran encountered the ghosts left behind from the terrible process that stripped this now nameless, forgotten human of all personality, leaving only a construct without ego or ambition, Illefarn’s perfect Guardian. Bran saw the tragedy of this being, and saw a bit of himself in him. He had been a stalwart member of West Harbor’s militia, and then a loyal member of Neverwinter’s City Watch, and now a knight and a landed noble who had sworn fealty to King Nasher Alagondar. He had always been a patriot, always willing to sacrifice himself for his country — just as the King of Shadows had been. Now the King of Shadows intended to return to complete his mission, by wiping out Illefarn’s enemies — all the outsiders who lived where the ancient empire once stood, meaning nearly the entire Sword Coast.

At the end of the rituals, however, they learned that one of them had already been performed, by Ammon Jerro. Without him, there could be no defeating the King of Shadows. Eventually, Aldanon located Ammon’s Haven. Shandra journeyed with Bran and his companions there, insistent that she se the place she had heard so many ghost stories about. They found a magical complex guarded and powered by a host of demons and devils, empowered by Jerro blood. In the heart of the citadel, Bran and his companions faced Ammon Jerro, who prepared to destroy them. Knowing their peril, Shandra rushed through the complex, offering her own blood to stop Ammon. When he noticed it, the enraged warlock confronted her and struck her dead, realizing too late that he had killed his last remaining kin. Heartbroken, the repentant Ammon Jerro returned with Bran to Crossroad Keep.

Ammon Jerro had noted the stirrings of the King of Shadows many years before, and sacrificed everything, even his own soul, to stop him. He descended into the Nine Hells to retrieve a weapon that could defeat him, the Silver Sword of Gith, the original silver sword on which all the others had been patterned. He commanded an army of demons and devils against the King of Shadows and his forces, finally meeting him in battle at West Harbor, where the Silver Sword shattered, leaving one piece embedded in Bran’s chest. It was no ordinary silver sword he was bound to, after all, but the Silver Sword of Gith, the holiest relic of the githyanki. Ammon led Bran to Nolaloth, a crystal dragon who had fought the King of Shadows and suffered, trapped, for a millennium because of it. The dragon revealed how Bran might reforge the sword in West Harbor, at the very site where it had shattered. Only Bran could wield it, commanded by his link to it through the shard inside him, held together by magic and will rather than metal.

As the conflict against the King of Shadows escalated into open war, Bran led Neverwinter’s forces at Highcliff and Crossroad Keep. Aldanon discovered a way to teleport Bran and his companions into the Claimed Lands, where they could confront the King of Shadows directly. With the Silver Sword of Gith, the completed Rituals of Purification, and all their combined strength, they succeeded in defeating their ancient adversary.

Mask of the Betrayer

Then, at the very moment of their victory, Bran was pulled away. He found himself in a cave, with a dark hunger growing inside him. He met a Red Wizard of Thay named Safiya, who led him to the nearby city of Mulsantir, hoping to find Lienna, an acquaintance of Safiya’s mother. Bran realized he had been teleported to Rashemen, on the other side of Faerûn from Neverwinter. At the Veil Theater, they found Lienna, dead, killed by Red Wizards in an attack. In the back of the theater, Bran found a way to enter the Shadowfell, where he discovered the attackers and defeated them.

Soon thereafter, Mulsantir was besieged by the spirit-god Okku, demanding that Bran be turned over to him. That terrible hunger he felt confirmed what Okku said, that he had become a spirit-eater, an accursed being who must feed upon fey and elementals (and sometimes mortal souls) in order to survive. Seeing Bran’s effort to control the curse, Okku took pity on him and agreed to journey with him.

Bran tracked down a group of gargoyle-like creatures who revealed that Lienna and her “red twin” had ordered them to kidnap him from the Sword Coast. The power of the King of Shadows had stopped them for a long time, but when Bran defeated him, they were able to teleport him to Rashemen. They said that the plot had been formed by the Slumbering Coven, a sisterhood of hag oracles who dwelt in an ancient flooded city. In the ancient city beneath Lake Mulsantir, Bran confronted the hags, who revealed the “red twin” as Saifya’s mother, Nefris. They sent him to Nefris’s Academy in Thay to discover her motive.

At the Academy, Bran entered a portal to the Astral Plane, where he met Myrkul, the former god of the dead. Myrkul revealed that the spirit-eater “curse" originated as a punishment for his former servant, Akachi the Betrayer, who once led a crusade against the realm of the dead. Akachi’s empty and hungering soul now resided in Bran’s body, and Bran’s own soul had been displaced to the Wall of the Faithless, in the realm of the dead, where those not claimed by any god are dissolved into nothingness. Realizing Myrkul’s enduring evil, Bran used his curse to devour what remained of the dead god’s essence.

Akachi had been the Chosen of Myrkul, but he loved a woman, a Faithless wizard. When she was killed by a backfiring spell, he knew that she would be damned to the Wall. He begged Myrkul to spare her that judgement, but the Lord of Bones refused to grant exemption, even for his Chosen’s lover. In his anger, Akachi turned against his faith and god. He vowed to tear down the Wall to retrieve her from oblivion. He enlisted allies like the demilich Rammaq whom he once thwarted, a solar from Celestia named Zoab, and the blue dragon queen Ser’ryu. With this ragtag host, he crafted the Betrayer’s Gate within the Death God’s Vault, creating a bridge to the Fugue Plane where they launched the Betrayer’s Crusade. The crusaders were met by Myrkul himself, who led an even greater army: all the heroes of the ancient dead marched at his back, masses of the False, and many devils who had been summoned from the Hells. Akachi’s army crumbled before the Lord of Bones, and his generals fled to the darkest corners of the planes. Not even the Betrayer could oppose Myrkul in the realm of the dead. Akachi was dragged in chains to the Basilica and had judgement pronounced upon him. His mind was shattered, bound to a broken mask, all bound to the curse of the spirit eater.

Returning to Thay, Bran met the Founder of the Academy. Confronting her, Safiya realized that she, Lienna, and Nefris were all splinters of the Founder’s soul, who had once been Akachi’s lover. The Founder explained that, while Lienna and Nefris understood their identities, the truth had been hidden from Safiya for her own safety. She admitted that she was responsible for Bran’s plight. She wanted to use him to end the spirit-eater curse, and with it Akachi’s suffering. She returned the Silver Sword of Gith to him, which he used to open the Betrayer’s Gate. There, in the realm of the dead, Bran found Akachi’s former commanders rallying with a new army, sensing the Betrayer’s return.

Since the Rituals of Purification in Arvahn, Bran had started to question his commitment to the causes of others, the way he had simply acted on others’ commands throughout his life. The prompting of Akachi’s spirit may have influenced him, just as his own sense of justice did, but most of all, Bran refused to play the part of anyone’s puppet any longer. He took command of the Crusade and proceeded to lead it into the City of the Dead against its current god, Kelemvor. The god told Bran that the Wall, while monstrous, was a key part of the architecture of the cosmos and could not be destroyed. Bran realized that before the war against the King of Shadows, he might have accepted that, but now he replied that if such monstrosity lay at the foundations of creation, then creation itself should be torn down. He pulled his own soul from the Wall as his army tore the rest of it down. Uniting the pieces of the Mask, Bran confronted the Faceless Man, the remainder of Akachi’s soul, and restored him.

The destruction of the Wall did not lead to the immediate unraveling of the universe, as Kelemvor had seemed to warn. No, the impact was more subtle. Many of the gods saw the Wall as an important part of their covenant with mortals, forcing them to choose a god or face horrible punishment in the afterlife. With that threat gone, many of the gods became much more brazen in their attempts to seize power, eventually leading to Mystra’s assassination by Cyric as part of Shar’s plot to seize control of the Weave, and the Spellplague that followed.

Neverwinter Nights II

Neverwinter: Tyranny of Dragons Jason